Peace activists disagree with Ward Churchill's comments

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Dec 3 07:34:35 MST 2001

Steve Philion wrote:
>Ward Churchill was invited by Burlinton Peace activists to speak at a
>rally in opposition to the  "war on terrorism". They were taken aback when
>a  Burlington Free Press columnist did some elementary research on
>Churchill's views on the people who died in the WTC attack. Churchill's
>view that the people in the WTC bldg. were "little Eichmanns" shocked the
>organizers and sponsors, one of whom pulled out of the rally, Pax Christi.

Here's the background on this. Churchill's article went out as an email
supplement to subscribers to "Dark Nights Field Notes", a magazine that
Churchill helps to edit and which and Jim Craven have contributed to. Jim
is also on the advisory board. I posted Ward's remarks to marxmail because
I very strongly agreed with most of it.

Will Miller, a professor at the U. of Vermont and a long time activist, put
the article on his own website where it first came to the attention of the
Burlington Free Press. Personally I wouldn't be surprised if some
government agency that spies on the Internet left tipped off the newspaper,
which made a big deal out of it. I got mail from the reporter a few days
ago asking me for the source of the original.

While I disagree with Ward's characterization on the WTC workers, I think
that the fact that the Burlington Free Press and Doug Henwood's Left
Business Observer have seized upon it tells us that something else is going
on. The pro-war forces in this country, and those on the left like Henwood
who have buckled under to its pressure, are desperately searching for any
kind of incriminating words that can make the entire movement look
"anti-American." This search is identical to that which took place during
the witch-hunt and which is now gathering steam through the media, the
government bully pulpit and Lynn Cheney's American Council of Trustees and

It is up to the radical movement to debate out questions such as the
character of the people who worked at the WTC, not the hysterical bourgeois
press. Although the radical movement in the USA is very small and
fragmented, it is clear that the ruling class is very concerned that
radical scholars like Churchill and campus activists might have the
capacity to awaken antiwar feelings in the American population. Given that
possibility, we do not need thought police like the Burlington Free Press
setting parameters for what is correct or incorrect for us to utter. That
is for people who are committed to social change to decide.

>The column from Saturday's Burlington Free Press:
>Activist's views on attacks will have people buzzing
>Ward Churchill is speaking in Burlington today.
>That might not mean much to most folks, although Churchill is one of the
>nation's foremost experts on the plight of indigenous peoples,
>particularly Native Americans.
>That's important stuff, but it's his views about the Sept. 11 attacks on
>the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that will have people buzzing this
>Churchill, who is expected to appear at a downtown rally against the
>bombing in Afghanistan this morning and at a symposium at the University
>of Vermont in the afternoon, basically thinks the victims of the attacks
>got what they deserved.
>In a lengthy Internet essay titled, "Some people push back: On the justice
>of roosting chickens," this is what he wrote about the people who
>commandeered the airliners that crashed into the Pentagon and the twin
>"They finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed
>to their people as a matter of course. That they waited to do so ... more
>than anything is a testament to their patience and restraint."
>As for those victims who died at the Pentagon, they were not "innocent
>civilians," he wrote. "The building and those inside comprised military
>targets, pure and simple."
>He directed his harshest remarks at the people who worked and died inside
>the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, apparently forgetting that a good
>number of them worked in low-paying jobs servicing the building and its
>"If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of
>visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little
>Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd be
>really interested in hearing about it."
>The Eichmann reference is to Adolph Eichmann, the member of the Nazi
>secret police who was convicted and executed for his part in the killing
>of six million Jews during World War II.
>Thankfully, we live in a nation that values free speech and is strong
>enough to permit the articulation of unpopular viewpoints, even as
>repugnant as Churchill's.
>To be fair, his essay was written shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, so
>we don't know if he remains as strident on the subject today. Attempts to
>reach him by telephone this week were unsuccessful.
>The essay first appeared on a Web site he helps edit and most recently was
>posted on UVM philosophy professor Will Miller's Web site.
>One thing's sure: UVM and the people responsible for sponsoring his visit
>to Burlington don't support what he wrote about the victims.
>They didn't even know he'd said those things until the essay was brought
>to their attention by a reporter.
>"I find it personally obnoxious and abhorrent," said Provost John Bramley.
>"I didn't know a damn thing about it until today."
>Ellen Kahler, director of the Peace & Justice Center, spoke about wishing
>her group could "pull back" from support for Churchill's appearance at the
>"It's clearly not our position at all, and it's unfortunate it came out
>now," she said.
>Jimmy Leas, a lawyer connected with the Burlington Anti-War Coalition,
>said his group considered but rejected the idea of disinviting Churchill
>upon learning of his remarks.
>"What he said is so completely at variance with what we believe," Leas
>You have to wonder if Churchill's remarks would be as cold-blooded if he
>had lost a loved one in the attacks, or what he'd say to the families of
>the 13 UVM alumni who did.
>Sometime this weekend, you can bet someone is going to ask Churchill about
>Let's see what he says.

Louis Proyect
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